Over the past year our traditional event model has not only flipped, but opened doors to a world of opportunities. Here at Showcare, we affectionately refer to this new event lifecycle as the event slinky. When we take a step back, we can see the big picture of all the possibilities available to us by incorporating a virtual component into our event strategy. However, often within moments of letting our imagination run, we get smacked with the big question of “COST?” EventMB reported that “Sponsorships are the primary source of virtual event revenue for 23% of planners” but there are so many more ways to think outside of the traditional “visibility” approach.
The purpose of this article is to offer some of the best strategies to increase your event’s bottom line. Once you understand your attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors, and design your event and virtual platform with them in mind, hybrid events become a truly worthwhile investment.
Maximize your audience insight
Picture yourself on the show floor: If someone entered an exhibitor’s booth or a session, their badge would get scanned. Then the show finishes. You start planning the next big event. Perhaps you revisit this list of scanned attendees, perhaps not. But what insight towards your audience’s preferences does that list provide? “90% of virtual event organizers use surveys to measure attendee satisfaction” (Markletic). One benefit of thinking more year-round when it comes to planning your events is sustained connection with your participants. By engaging your audience through ongoing content, sessions, products, and offerings you will gain even more targeted knowledge that no post-event survey alone could supply.
This insight will help you better tailor your event and content to your participants. By focusing on their experience, preferences, and behavior, not only will attendees feel valued and seen, but their engagement will be higher as you’re planning for WHO they are and HOW they choose to participate at an event. Further, based on your audiences’ interests, you can create new products such as trainings, webinars, user groups, courses, and publications.
This value is something attendees will pay for and promote to their friends!
Like the classic Burger King jingle: “Have it your way.”
Choose your own adventure (attendee edition)
As we’re designing more personalized programs for our attendees, let them choose their adventure when it comes to event access as well as engagement style! Think about your audience and what types of packages would best fit their needs. It’s always a good idea to offer a range of options and highlight the perks for each. Create one package that provides the maximum value and present it in a way that makes it the clear choice for anyone looking to get the most bang for their buck.
Some fun examples of ticket options:
- Early bird gets the worm: I want to engage BEFORE the event starts and take part in the community.
- Just the facts ma’am: I want to attend THE event and only THE event.
- The whole shebang: I’ll be present before, during, and after the event. Community, chat, on-demand, yes please!
- Ordering à la carte: I want to choose to attend only on specific event days or add on additional VIP sessions, workshops, and experiences.
Content has value
Those different pricing models can also apply to content as well. They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Content has value at all stages of the event journey because its delivery should also be based on personal preferences. Include different options for access to content in your registration packages to meet participants’ learning styles.
From there, why not sell post-event content deals? At your event, participants see your content’s value firsthand. After it closes, they may want to keep the learning going (or see what they missed). Offer a limited-time reduced rate, or perhaps bundle it with a discount to a certification program—the gift that keeps on giving! Get creative with how you repurpose and package your content based on attendees’ preferences. If during your event they focused on specific topics or sessions, why not bundle those, and add in a few complementary subjects? It may inspire them to attend your future event on that subject!
Sponsors and exhibitors are thought leaders
Content can also be offered by sponsors and exhibitors too. Put on that thought-leadership cap. How can sponsors and exhibitors leverage their expertise, while providing an educational benefit that’s relevant to your attendees’ interests and goals? What feedback has your audience provided towards desired content? Use this to determine the right sponsor to offer that session. This allows sponsors and exhibitors to feel less “pitch-y” and deliver genuinely worthwhile learning to your audience. Start the conversation early between your sponsors, exhibitors, sales, and content planning team to design relevant and attractive sessions.
Example: Your event is for coffee roasters and Nespresso wants to be a sponsor. What if they led a session all about the impact of water by climate on bean production? Or, what if your audience requested wanting to learn more about roasting innovation and you find a state-of-the-art supplier who can share their knowledge? I bet you’d have a lot of eyes, interest, and engagement at those sessions.
It’s all about creating an experience
Let’s continue thinking beyond the banners, tiles, and quick video reels. We’ve already discussed sponsors and exhibitors offering educational sessions but we can also go experiential! This is where we can get highly creative, perhaps add in the element of “surprise and delight,” and offer select sponsorship opportunities that will lead to sponsors feeling FOMO.
Imagine: Only a limited number of sponsors having the chance for that super cool, highly visible [insert name here] offering? They will be pounding down the door for that chance!
How about a:
- mixology course which includes ingredients for the cocktails? “Only 30% of event organizers send their attendees giveaways” (Markletic). Who wouldn’t love receiving this fun experience package in the mail? I know I would.
- virtual visit of a destination which includes a local delicacy? When we can incorporate as many senses as possible, the more memorable it will be! Here we’ll be including nearly all five! Bonus points: our sense of smell helps to ingrain memories. Whenever attendees get a whiff of the food/drink you offered them, they will think of the destination.
- dance competition? But take it one step further! Tie it to a charity, where people’s votes are connected to a monetary amount of their choosing. Bring out the fun, competition, and excitement while also doing good.
Choose your own adventure (sponsor and exhibitor edition)
Who says attendees must have all the fun! Let sponsors and exhibitors choose their adventures as well. This is your chance as a planner to provide inspiration and show them ALL your event has to offer. By thinking creatively and designing interesting and worthwhile sponsorship opportunities, your sponsors will feel valued, your audience will be presented with what they’re looking for, and you may just transform your exhibitors to sponsors as well!
At Showcare, we take the time to understand your vision and goals and then highlight all the possibilities on our platform to help craft the “What’s that? Oh, it’s FOMO calling” ULTIMATE experiences! We guide you, your sponsors, and exhibitors on how to best optimize our platform’s real estate—walking through every square inch of the event. For example, in our booths, we have a way to host product demos. What if this was included only in certain packages and not at the base level?
Our virtual event platform offers another fantastic feature that provides a world of possibilities: our marketplace. This gives exhibitors and sponsors a way to present their products, services, and courses directly to their target market. As we want to have many options available to attendees, what if you charge an exhibitor a base amount to join the marketplace and a small fee for every lead brought in? Adds that bit of a competitive spirit to your team as you really want your exhibitors to have as much traffic as possible. It shows that you are in it together with them!
When it comes to designing worthwhile sponsorship opportunities, by approaching them differently, you can uncover many gems.
A few suggestions:
- We recommend thinking beyond fixed packages and visualizing more of a menu with à la carte options. À la carte allows sponsors to customize how they want to interact with your event and audience, as well as allocate their budget in a way that’s most suitable (and relevant) for their company, product, or service. Still want to have different tiers by dollar amount? You can! Add up the customized menu that you created with your sponsors and exhibitors and categorize accordingly.
- Think big picture when it comes to your sponsors and exhibitors! Be sure to offer visual real estate, thought-leadership and experiential components, and perhaps even year-round opportunities.
- We mentioned FOMO. By creating a sense of urgency with a limited number of each item, sponsors know they must move fast in order to secure it!
- But don’t forget your previous sponsors. Reward their loyalty with one-of-a-kind and select opportunities such as interviewing the famous keynote speaker. You can also let them have early access to your “menu.”
Then we can tie this all up in a bow and create sponsor and exhibitor customized adventures that no one can refuse!
Always remember your good friend, data
Going back to audience insight. Pretend you’re following an attendee onsite… with a timer. May seem a bit strange right? But that’s not the case virtually! Participants wander into booths leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. Piecing together these data breadcrumbs means you can present exhibitors more value than just visibility—you’ll receive attendee behaviors and preferences.
Offer sponsors and exhibitors the gift of better-targeted follow up because you know exactly what did, or did not, intrigue your attendees. Have a conversation early on to figure out their key analytics and then tailor your data to deliver this. Do they want to know the type of attendees who did not visit their booth? Overview of successful competitor products? How they ranked amongst fellow exhibitors? It is possible to filter your data so sponsors and exhibitors see exactly what they want, without disclosing sensitive or competitor information. This is a very hot-ticket item that sponsors will be more than willing to pay a premium for.
Do keep in mind—leveraging this insight on participant preferences and engagement allows you to create different personas. These personas will help you to more accurately design, bundle, and price future sponsorship packages.
This is the song that never ends…
This article is indeed coming to a close, BUT the conversation should not.
Robert Kozub, CEO of Showcare, summarizes this well:
“It’s our mutual goal to create and execute profitable and year-round events for your organization. Our Showcarians are passionate and committed to gathering all your organizational objectives, engaging audiences, and having events live way beyond a given date. By presenting exactly what your audience wants to experience, participation will continuously increase. Open your mind to this event slinky (read more about how you can further your event’s lifecycle here), because the monetization opportunities that go hand in hand are near limitless.”
It’s time to co-create to a new level. Let’s extend the event slinky together and transform your events from an expenditure to a revenue generator. Your events will become bottom lines that your boss can’t wait to review!